Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 20, 2021
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The Kindle: paperback 2.0

Of the two definitions Amazon could choose from to describe its new electronic reader, the Kindle, they chose “2. to inspire, stir up.” They could as easily have chosen “1. to light or set on fire.” The device is hot, no question. Most users love it; many book publishers fear it.

The Kindle downloads books, magazines and newspapers, audiobooks, blogs and even personal documents and displays them on a screen which looks a lot like paper.

If you’re in the US, it does so wirelessly (and free in less than two minutes). In Canada and everywhere else, you download material to your computer and transfer it to the Kindle with a USB cable. The unit also searches Wikipedia (online) and the New American Oxford Dictionary (offline). There’s even a basic Web browser.

This is the first ebook reader that really has a shot at changing how we buy and purchase books. Currently Amazon offers 130,000 electronic book titles. New ones are added every day. Bestsellers are priced at $9.99, older titles go for as little as 99 cents.

The Kindle sells for US$359 and is available only on The credit card you use to buy it is automatically charged with future book purchases. I’ve been playing with one for 10 days. Here are some of my thoughts.

Things I like most: you can carry around a whole library in the size of a single paperback (you can add a memory card so the capacity is almost limitless); no eye strain, the screen’s just like paper; the brighter the light the easier it is to read; it automatically keeps your place, great if you’re reading more than one book at a time; it refreshes instantly; it allows you to clip and save pages and passages, highlight and add notes; the audiobook feature; you can sample up to 30-page excerpts before you buy; “Manage Your Kindle” site keeps all of your content on Amazon and makes it easy to, well, manage; the rechargeable battery can go up to a week between charges.

Good but less than perfect: the shape is odd, it may be supposed to resemble the right side of an open book; the Next Page, Previous Page and Back buttons are curiously, sized, placed and take some getting used to; it slips out of its handsome leather cover too easily. Another downside: the limited availability of “classic” literature.

Major problem: So far it’s only available in the US (unless you pay the profiteers who are turning around and selling them on eBay, in which case you also add shipping and duty to the price). The free wireless capability (on the Sprint network) only works south of the border.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.